Somewhere in Nevada, 2007

I visited airplane graveyards and meditated in the shadows of retired war machines, their shark-tooth paint jobs fading in the sun. The desert’s silence was hell on my tinnitus. All this space and light, yet I remained trapped in my awful head, my thoughts held hostage to an endless dial tone. So long as I had the grey noise of highway traffic or a ventilation unit, I could live with the ringing. But out here, the silence carried weight, a morbid pressure against the skin.

At a gas station in Barstow, a man in a tight leather jacket warned me about the desert. “Don’t listen to anyone who dares you to walk,” he said, sending his cigarette skittering across the parking lot where it sparked against a pick-up truck. He clamped my shoulder and shook me a little, his fingernails digging into bone. “I’m serious, brother. People get into trouble like you wouldn’t believe. They’ll challenge each other to walk ten miles into Death Valley without supplies and then walk ten miles back. They wager money on it.” 

I tell him I’ve never heard of such a thing, and he stares beyond me, watching the traffic. “Yeah, you can make some nice money on a bet like that,” he said. “But I lost a few good friends that way.” I watched the tension in his jaw, the cords pulsing in his neck. Only God knew what he was remembering. I turned to go. “Don’t forget,” he called, “if you’re out there and you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated!”

Demdike Stare – Desert Ascetic

Voices of Dust | Modern Love, 2010 | Boomkat

This is the fifth episode of Interstate Scenes, a fictional collection of homeless paragraphs, remixed and upcycled bits from the past, and bloopers from the stories I’m writing.

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